This research paper discusses and analyzes the reasons why the United States became involved in the Vietnam War and the consequences of that war on American society then and later.
From the late 1940s and until the fall of Saigon in 1975 American policy toward Vietnam was dictated by Cold War considerations --i.e. the imperative need as perceived by the American national security establishment to contain communist expansion in French Indochina, and, after 1954, to prevent a communist takeover in South Vietnam. The United States moved from indirect to direct involvement in combat operations in Vietnam in the mid-1960s because the administration of Lyndon Johnson concluded that the South Vietnamese Government was incapable of defending itself.
The Vietnam War had significantly debilitating, divisive and corrosive effects on American society. The inconclusive, frustrating and horrifying aspects of the Vietnam War eventually played a major role in reducing domestic support for it. The progressively deepening split in American public opinion concerning the war and the antiwar movement created a deep fissure between generations, social classes, political parties and within the national security elite. The war left a largely negative legacy on the American collective consciousness and body politic which accentuated public distrust of government, hampered military operations and foreign policy and led to governmental excesses during the Watergate scandal period. As a result of the war, domestic dissent became more respectable and the public less inclined to accept governmental pronouncements at face value.
Historical Setting. According to Edmonds, "Vietnam was no more than a blip on the American consciousness prior to the closing days of World War II" (8). The Vietnamese have had a long history of resistance to foreign [namely, Chinese] invaders. Before the French were finally forced to leave Indochina after their defeat by the...